Spring 2011 announcement, SWTOR not planned for fiscal 2011
I am going to group these together because they are really the same thing, even though they were revealed at different times. This was a disappointment because I had hoped it would be out sooner. In fact, I would say that many people who were waiting for this news were hoping that the game would release no later than fall 2010. I will counter this by saying that although the news was disappointing, I would rather have a game that is done well rather than half-finished.
PAX, the biggest event this year
I loved PAX -- I really did. It was an incredible experience that I would not trade for anything. I was able to actually play SWTOR. I interviewed and talked to many developers from all sorts of games. I met Blaine Christine and Daniel Erickson in person. I got an awesome Sith Empire t-shirt. What more did I need, right?
At E3 (three months earlier) PAX was touted as the biggest event for North America this year. As far as the amount of work that went into producing it, it probably was the biggest. Setting up six of the eight classes on 30-some machines for hundreds of visitors from the general public to play has to be extremely nerve-wracking. But the amount of news and reveals that came from PAX was sub-par. Truly, the greatest reveal to come out of PAX was HK-47. Don't even get me started on how BioWare shared a booth with The Force Unleashed II.
I don't want to spend too much time on this. In fact, I believe this is the first time I've really even mentioned EA Louse. It's not that I am disappointed with any of the "reveals" EA Louse gave us; I am disappointed that he posted at all. He didn't back up any of his facts regarding SWTOR with quotes or statistics -- not even names. He worked in a different department at BioWare, yet people took him at his word. I am just glad the reporters here at Massively were able to look at his claims objectively.
Sean Dahlberg leaves
It is always bittersweet when someone leaves one company for another, but it was disappointing when Community Manager Sean Dahlberg left SWTOR for Faxion because he had been with BioWare since the launch of SWTOR's website. He was the voice of the game for many fans. I am glad he's happy at his current job, but I wish I'd had the chance to meet him before he moved on. Maybe he'll be at PAX East, just for the fun of it.
Space on rails announcement
I could really go on forever about why this was bad, but I will concentrate this mini-rant on the way the announcement was handled. First, we learned at E3 that every SWTOR character would get his own spaceship. Then, speculation hit. Fans asked why would they have ships but no space. After a couple of months, we were told that indeed there would be space combat. Woohoo! Fans were excited. Finally, we discovered that we were going to be playing an updated version of StarFox, and that was the big space content reveal. There was a huge set-up for something that was not really a big deal. In retrospect, I believe BioWare should have made the announcement at the time it revealed ships, putting the emphasis on the player ships themselves, not on playing-on-rails.
In light of some of the other announcements, this one is mostly forgotten. But I believe it was one of the announcements that started to set SWTOR apart from other games. Yes, some would argue that companion characters are nothing new in MMOs. (I can't really speak to Guild Wars.) But SWTOR's having companions that revolve around your character truly makes a distinctive mark on what this game is about. I look forward to every new companion reveal.
The Sith Warrior video was cool. I liked the Jedi Knight and Trooper video, too. However, the most distinctive video had to be the Smuggler video. This was the first class to show potential players that there was more to this game than the Force, and you could be cool, too. For me, it was first time I questioned my starting class choice. I'm still not certain I want to play the Jedi Knight first, but Smuggler will definitely be one of the first two classes I play.
Renaming the Jedi Wizard
As far as gaming news is concerned, this is small potatoes, but in the world of Star Wars: The Old Republic, this was pretty big. Now, granted, in the grand scheme of things, who really cares what a sub-class is called? In a lot of games, sub-classes don't even have names. What is most significant about this is that the developers are listening to fans, which tells me that, if there are changes the developers can make to help the fan enjoy the game more, they will be made.
Stephen Reid made SWTOR Community Manager
When looking for a replacement for Sean Dahlberg, a company cannot pick just any Community Manager. Dahlberg had pretty much set up the tone for the SWTOR community. How can just anyone jump into a two-year-old community for a game that hasn't even been released?
I met Stephen, albeit very briefly, at PAX, but I learned quite a bit about him through Massively staffers and a friend who worked with him at Gazillion. He seemed to be pretty much the definition of a community manager: a strong yet humble communicator and an honest fan of the game. If I were to have picked someone I wanted to be my community manager, it would be Stephen Reid.
Lastly, the greatest news item has to be the Hope trailer. This video truly left me speechless. Granted, it was not actual in-game footage like I was hoping, but wow was it breathtaking. At the same time, this trailer revealed more of the deep lore of this game. The trailer also proved that BioWare was banking a lot on the story of this game, which meant the devs were either hiding terrible gameplay or promoting something awesome. (The gameplay is awesome, by the way.)
There are my least favorite and most favorite news items of this year. What are yours?
The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!